Over the last few decades, American liberals have lauded the German model or the Swedish model or the European model. But these models are not flexible enough for the modern world. They encourage people to cling fiercely to entitlements their nation cannot afford. And far from breeding a confident, progressive outlook, they breed a reactionary fear of the future that comes in left- and right-wing varieties - a defensiveness, a tendency to lash out ferociously at anybody who proposes fundamental reform or at any group, like immigrants, that alters the fabric of life.Brooks identifies a weakness in certain liberal perspectives. Clinging to anything can be stultifying — even if it's clinging to something good. We must stay aware of where the world is moving and not focus on hanging on to the past. That's called conservatism.
This is the chief problem with the welfare state, which has nothing to do with the success or efficiency of any individual program. The liberal project of the postwar era has bred a stultifying conservatism, a fear of dynamic flexibility, a greater concern for guarding what exists than for creating what doesn't. [Emphasis added in both cases. ra]
Thursday, June 02, 2005
Liberalism breeds conservatism? How can we get cling-free liberalism?
Normally I'm not particularly impressed with David Brooks. His columns are often either superficial or not very coherent. But today's column makes an important point — although its opening sentence, "events in Western Europe are slowly discrediting large swaths of American liberalism" is much too partisan for what turns out to be an interesting column.